Orlando Pirates came on strongly in the closing stages and made a major statement of intent in the title race as they beat Chippa United 4-2 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday to move second in the Absa Premiership and to within four points of the leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.
Two goals from Zambian Justin Shonga carried Pirates to a morale boosting win less than week before the Soweto derby after they had gone behind inside the opening 20 minutes.
Bernard Morrison’s penalty and Thembinski Lorch’s clever header were the other goals for Pirates while Mxolisi Macuphu and Katlego Mashego scored either side of half time for the hosts.
Pirates moved ahead of Kaizer Chiefs onto 36 points with a most impressive victory in front of some 30,000 adoring fans in Port Elizabeth.
Macuphu handed Chippa the lead in the 18th minute with a superb snap effort on the turn that flummoxed the Pirates defence after a clever through ball from Sizwe Mdlinzo.
But the lead lasted only eight minutes before Pirates were awarded a penalty.
It seemed somewhat harsh on Paseka Mako, who was hit on the hand at closer range by Morrison’s attempted cross.
Morrison, who scored twice in the last game for the Buccaneers a fortnight earlier, stepped up and squeezed his spot kick under a diving Brighton Mhlongo.
The game was always going to be a spicy affair considering how many of the players on either side come from the other club and also with Tebeho Moloi, former Pirates player and coach, leading Chippa’s charge.
Twice in the first half Pirates conspired to concede with defensive slips that offered Chippa chances.
The first was in the 14th minute when Ntsikelele Nyauza gave away the ball and allowed the home side to set up Mdlinzo for what looked an easy finish. But he struck the ball of the outside of the upright in a horror miss.
Near the end of the first half, Musa Nyatama also gave away the ball to Thabo Rakhale whose combination with Macuphu set up a shot that Jackson Mabokgwane had to stop with a diving save.
Morrison might have got a second after the break after Chippa did not clear properly and he had time to try and curl the ball into the net but was just wide in the 49th minute.
Then, with just over an hour gone, Morrison should have scored when he cleverly anticipated a shallow back pass from Mako but his chip over Mhlongo went agonisingly across the face of goal.
Musa Nyatama also had an opportunity as he hit the upright in the 67th minute.
Six minutes later came Pirates’ second goal after the persistence of Luvuyo Memela with some clever foot work to set up the score for Shonga, who also need to show some skills to finish from close range.
But the drama did not end there. Mdlinzo’s strong run through the middle in the 82nd minute pulled out the Pirates defenders and he slipped a great pass through for Thabo Rakhale whose shot was blocked but veteran substitute Katlego Mashego swept home the loose ball with his first touch of the game.
That might have seemed to have taken the energy out of the Pirates side but they came straight back as Innocent Maela delivered the perfect as Thembinkosi Lorch rose to glide the ball home with a sublime header in the 86th minute.
Shonga then pout the cherry on the top with a rasping shot from a tight angle four minutes into stoppage time as Pirates extended the score to 4-2 and made sure of the spoils.
Other PSL Weekend Results:
Friday February 23 2018:
Maritzburg United 2 – 1 Platinum Stars
Saturday February 24 2018:
Baroka FC 1 – 1 Polokwane City
Mamelodi Sundowns 1 – 1 SuperSport United
Cape Town City 1 – 2 Bidvest Wits
Free State Stars 0 – 0 AmaZulu
Kaizer Chiefs 0 – 0 Bloemfontein Celtic
Sunday February 25 2018:
Chippa United 2 – 4 Orlando Pirates
Lamontville Golden Arrows 1 – 0 Ajax Cape Town